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    Highlights of the ICANNWatch Archive
    (June 1999 - March 2001)

    The Big Picture Telephone Numbers Are Hard Too
    posted by michael on Thursday February 06 2003, @01:57PM

    Today's New York Times brings a useful reminder that even naming schemes better established than the DNS can have a problem deploying new addresses and new services. Seems the RBOCs in the US are unwilling or unable to deploy the new national '555' number service. Indeed, Marcia Biederman's article Personal 555 Number Is Still Mostly Fiction describes problems that may sound a little familiar, although the DNS wars have yet to feature on celluloid.

    Does any of this sound familiar:
    For decades, telecommunications historians say, the Bell System and its successors had reserved numbers with the 555 prefix for special uses. They were thus ideal for television and movies, where their mention would not prompt prank calls to real people.

    That ended in 1994, when a contractor to the Federal Communications Commission, the North American Numbering Plan Administration, began accepting applications for these numbers from the public. They were meant to be dialed nationally or across broad regions of the continent, without regard to area code, on the model of 555-1212, the directory assistance number.

    Attracted by the prospect of catchy nationwide numbers like 555-TRIP for travel reservations or 555-TAXI for cab service, applications poured in from newspapers, airlines and radio stations. Entrepreneurs applied for numbers that spelled famous corporate names, much as speculators reserve Internet domains. An assignment cost nothing, but it was left to the assignee to work out activation and payment arrangements with local phone companies. But today, with all but 2,000 of the 10,000 numbers assigned, no one seems able to name even one that works as hoped. A few have been activated in small cities, but require area codes; more than 100 have been put into service of sorts, with cumbersome dial-around prefixes (like bypassing the local carrier with a number on the order of 10-10-321-212-555-1234). But the dream of summoning food coast to coast with, say, 555-TACO remains elusive.

    Proponents blame major telephone companies, which they assert have thwarted activation of 555 numbers for fear that they might divert revenue from 800 numbers or other products.

    This is only an excerpt -- there's lots more in the article.

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  • New York Times
  • the article
  • Personal 555 Number Is Still Mostly Fiction
  • More on The Big Picture
  • Also by michael
    This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.
    Telephone Numbers Are Hard Too | Log in/Create an Account | Top | 1 comments | Search Discussion
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    Domain Names vs. Numbers
    by joppenheimer on Sunday February 09 2003, @02:54PM (#11129)
    User #5 Info | http://JudithOppenheimer.com
    I'm somewhat familiar with the 555 issue, and it has been an unfair problem for the number holders - unfortunately what they didn't forsee (in the most simplistic terms) was that RBOCs are the most difficult entities for everyone to deal with, on everything. It is one of the variables that makes their very good idea, not so good.

    And unlike 800, there were new users who were interested, but not existing users really willing to go to the mat like with 800 and portability, 888 replication, etc.

    But I want to clarify that names and numbers are not the same at all, in some very profound ways.

    Using 800 (my area of expertise) as an example, while registrant agreements grant the user no control over the domain name, portability grants the 800 subscriber control over the 800 number and service. This is an FCC enforced distinction. (Imagine ICANN doing that!)

    Trademark has preemptive dibs in domain names. Specifically not so in numbers.

    All its flaws acknowledged, there is still a sanity in the PSTN numbering scheme, and to varying degrees an accountability and availability of remedy, that has never existed in domain names.

    (Those who have read my ongoing concerns about ENUM may now understand why. Cure the DNS before you drop numbers behind its iron curtain!)

    [ Reply to This | Parent ]

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